Hymns ~ A Guest Post by my sister, Emily McIllwain

FullSizeRenderI hear the Savior say, “Thy strength indeed is small Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all.”

Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

“Jesus Paid it All” (Elvina M. Hall, 1865)

I just had a very emotional heart to heart with my 3-year-old daughter (hence, the “emotional” part) regarding sin that was built up in her heart.  Amidst tears and hugs she cried out, “I don’t know how to be good! I need God to help me be good!”…Amen sister.  Don’t we all.  The words of the above hymn immediately came to my mind and lips, and she drifted off to a peaceful sleep with a song I learned in my formative years that I now need more than ever.

I frequently sing to (and with) my children.  We sing while we play, while we ride in the car, while we rock-rock, and while they close their eyes and fall asleep.  Music has always played an important role in my life.  It has always been there; something I have always loved and spent a lot of time (and my dad’s money!) invested in.  As I sing to my children, I realize the importance of those Sunday’s that my parents dragged me to church.  Don’t get me wrong- most of the time I really wanted to go, but my motive was not to praise God or to hear Him speak to me through the sermon…it was to flirt with my crush or pass notes to my friends (where to eat for lunch that day was always a hot topic that was sure to distract even the most focused of us).  All were wrong reasons to sit there on Sunday morning, but still, today, as a 32-year-old woman, I benefit from that attendance.  The music and lyrics of the hymns that we sang in our Baptist church growing up are forever etched in my heart, always sure to open up when called upon by the Spirit inside of me.

Hymns are building blocks to the rock-solid foundation of Christianity necessary to a lifetime of persevering and growing in the Lord.  ~“The Solid Rock”
(Edward Mote)

Through the melodious harmony and unapologetic worship of a hymn, ministry happens – to our own hearts, and to others as well.  Worship is not only achieved through music, of course (a concept that hadn’t occurred to me until my 20’s), but through no other venue does the Holy Spirit grab me so strongly and completely. Through no other venue can I personally worship so openly and through no other venue have I witnessed others worship so boldly.

The old classic hymns are still as popular and catchy as ever.  Through them, we are united with Christians from long ago, people who lived in very different times yet still fought the same enemy and felt the same Spirit.  The hymns remain relevant because our God Almighty remains unchanged.

“Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not.

As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.”

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

-Thomas Chisholm, 1923

This is not to say that Christian music published after the 19th century is any less developed or memorable, but isn’t it truly amazing (no pun intended!) that “Amazing Grace” by John Newton in 1779 is still the number one most popular Christian hymn, even though it is two and a half CENTURIES old?  The song is truly powerful, and so very applicable today, but I also think that the concept of memorization has a lot to do with it as well.  “Amazing Grace” is sung at many funerals, and has been remade several time since its release.  The words are etched in our minds and our subconscious, and therefore are easy to call upon when needed.

The notion of using music – specifically hymns – to teach children and adults alike has been around since the time of Moses.  In Deuteronomy chapter 31, Moses recognized the need for accurate memorization of God’s Law, and so he wrote it down and demanded that the laws be read to the entire Hebrew assembly, including the children.

To fulfill God’s purpose and will in our lives we need the content and substance of His Word in our hearts and minds…There is a place for music in Christian education, and for the building up of all believers. Some people memorize classic hymns of the church to help them think of what is true, right and good.*

In the next chapter of Deuteronomy (Chapter 32), Moses himself taught the people through a song entitled “The Song of Moses”.  I’m sure Moses was hoping the song would make the history of Israel, the warnings from their past mistakes, and their hope in the one true God easier to remember.

As I think back to the church attendance of my youth, I realize that my one-year-old and three-year-old benefit from that church attendance as well.  As I sing songs to them, I become conscious of the fast-pace of life and the urgency to cram their sweet little heads full of Jesus and His Love and not Old Mother Goose (not that there is anything wrong with Mother Goose).  No matter what trials they face in life or storms they weather, I want them to be led by His Light (“Be Thou My Vision” -Dallan Forgaill), and if led astray, to come back to Him.  I want them to remember the hymns I sang to them and to hold on to the words that will give them peace and hope amidst pain, suffering and longing like we hear in “It is Well” by Horacio Spafford.  I want them to sing hymns to their children, so that they, too, may experience the undeniable tug of the Holy Spirit through the music and lyrics of Christians over many centuries fighting the good fight together, with the never-changing Lord of All by their side (“Great is Thy Faithfulness” – Thomas Chisholm).

O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting He passed, and we follow Him there; O’er us sin no more hath dominion— For more than conqu’rors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised; Believe Him, and all will be well: Then go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell!

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”

Helen Lemmel, 1922

*(Galvin, James C., Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Notes to the Life Application Study Bible, NASV, Updated Edition published by Zondervan, p. 326).

~Emily McIllwain is my precious younger sister.  She lives in Russellville, AR with her husband and their two daughters.  She is a licensed attorney but currently is a IMG_5271stay at home mommy, a challenge which she finds equally exhilarating and exhausting, requiring the constant need for Jesus.  She thanks God for His endless provision.

What? Me Worry? (guest post by Jim Sprott)

What? Me worry?

A strange magazine popular among young people in the early 1960’s emblazoned the picture of a toothless under-achiever named Alfred E. Newman asking this question: “What?  Me worry?”  While a far cry from any religious overtones, Mad Magazine’s hero’s lead question is one that should cross the mind of all of us who profess the name of Christ.  Am I to worry?  Am I to be afraid of the unseen future?  As Paul was apt to say in Romans, God forbid!

In fact, it was Paul who made it clear to his young friend, Timothy, that God did not give us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and a sound mind. (II Tim 1:7)  If God be with us, of whom, or what, shall we be afraid? And there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from the love of God, which is Christ Jesus, our Lord.  (Rom. 8:38 – 39)

So what is it that causes us to fear? Often, it is criticism, what people think of us.  Sometimes, it is a crisis.  We cherish stability and don’t appreciate change.  Problems seem to result when we face the changes life on this earth naturally presents to us.  Sometimes, we fear catastrophes; we focus on bad things that might happen to us or to those we love.  Yes, it is people, problems and prospects that cause us to fear and worry.

And the effects of fear and worry are dramatic. Fear disrupts our souls; it takes away our ability to be ourselves, serving God.  It paralyzes us; God wants us to move forward and grow spiritually, but we are sometimes frozen with fear and worry.  Fear really dishonors God himself, because it ignores His sovereignty, control and promises.

So how shall we overcome fear and worry? First of all, remember whose you are.  If you are a believer, you are a child of the King, part of a Heavenly family who can call upon the very Creator of this universe!  You have a Heavenly Father who loves you, wants the very best for you and can always accomplish what is truly needed in your life.  Will our life always be pleasant and our path free of pain and problems?  Absolutely not!  This is a fallen world, Satan and his evil are all around us; sickness and death will come to us and, even worse, to those we love dearly.  But God is in control, and He loves even me!

David is often the best example of a man who lived in this fallen world and experienced the pain it causes through his experiences and failings, and yet he kept his reliance on God and God’s love for him. In Psalm 56:3 – 4, David wrote “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.  In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do to me.”  Notice he says “What time I fear,” meaning, “When I fear.”  In other words, fear will come, even as it did to this giant in the faith.  The question David faces when it comes, as we too face when it comes, is whether we will allow it to disrupt us or paralyze us and thus dishonor God.

Absolutely not, says David. Instead, he will praise His word.  In other words, David will get into God’s word.  He will dust off his copy of the scriptures and praise God through delving deeply into His word.  In God he will put his trust, and he will not fear what this world (flesh, in the verse) can do to him.  He will not fear the evil of sin; he will not fear the pain of the death of a son; he will not fear social and physical enemies all around him.  Like David, in times when fear and worry come, we must put our trust in the God who loves us, the God who promises never to leave us.

Not only should we remember whose we are, when facing fear, but we should remember how we are made. We are made in the likeness of God himself.  We have been given authority here on earth.  We should remember what we have been given; take the focus off whatever is causing us worry and fear and put our focus on the blessings we have been given by God.  The old gospel song “Count Your Blessings” is not just a ditty, it is a spiritual truth.  We can avoid worry and fear as we focus on the blessings we have been given, counting them “one by one.”

No, God has not given us a spirit to accept fear and worry, but one of power, love and discipline. The power to act boldly with the authority we are given to approach even the very throne of God himself.  If we have the authority to approach the very Creator of the universe, (and we do), what in this world can bother us?  We certainly will experience pain, such as the loss of someone we love, but we must not be worry about such prospects in the future.

Love itself casts out fear. If we focus, through love, on others instead of ourselves and the problem causing us worry, the problem will fade as we express love to others through our actions.  Is something worrying you?  Get up and go help someone less fortunate than you, consider their situation and act to remedy it.  Our problems will fade in comparison when we get outside ourselves and serve others.

We have the Spirit to become disciplined in our approach to this fallen world, a sound mind producing sober thoughts, an understanding of God’s will and purpose in this world, all leading to freedom from fear and worry.

So let’s consider the same question posed decades ago by Alfred E. Newman and Mad Magazine: “What?  Me worry?”  With our loving God’s help, we believers can give a resounding “NO” to that question.